C-Smash VRS Review

See it, smash it, sorted.
C-Smash VRS

A Japanese exclusive Dreamcast block smashing game probably isn’t the most obvious choice for a virtual reality revival, yet it’s actually a genuinely brilliant fit. Blending together closed courts to bounce balls around like a game of squash with the action puzzle block breaking of Breakout, C-Smash VRS actually an inspired choice and one of the best sporty games on PlayStation VR 2.

Like a 2001 A Space Odyssey’s star baby, you’re born into the cosmos, zooming into a star system and floating amongst the planets until you reach out and grab the small block that floats in the aether. That block turns into a racket, and you’re suddenly brought into a spartan space station where the only goal seems to be to play racket sports.

Whether you know your games or not, C-Smash VRS is immediately simple to grasp. You have a bat in hand, a ball to hit, and you’re trying to bounce it off blocks. Whether it’s real-world ping-pong, squash, tennis or just bouncing a ball off a wall, you know what to do. It’s brilliantly intuitive to play within VR, though obviously demands that you have decent hand-eye coordination, track the ball well enough and learn how to aim, apply a bit of speed and arcing spin to the ball. The physics aren’t fully realistic and getting the ball to go where you want is tricky, but with the trail following the ball as it flies and the simplicity of just knocking it back, you’re brought into this game’s interpretation of zero-G sports.

C-Smash VRS intro

As minimalist as the game’s visual style is, there’s also just a ton of fun little touches sprinkled throughout the game. In the main menu, look through the window to your side and there could be astronauts bouncing off pads, as you load into a multiplayer game, you’re greeted by a DJ pumping out some banging tunes, and through pretty much every area and stage, you’ll have windows out into space where there could be onlookers cheering you one, space ships flying by and more. And there’s a great soundtrack woven into the game, featuring music by DJ Ken Ishii, Danalogue and a special collaboration with UNKLE.

While this will be best played with a full room scale VR set up, you don’t have to have a mansion to get the most out of it. Standing play is more than good enough with feet rooted to the spot, and sliding left and right with the analogue stick. You can even play seated with a crouch button, so long as you’ve got some decent clearance for swinging your arms around.

Where a 2D game of Breakout has you clearing rows of blocks, here you’re confronted by panels to hit in 3D space, arrayed down the other end of a minimalist tunnel. Hit a panel and it disappears, hit all of them and a fresh set will spawn in or you’ll move on to the next level and you’ll have been scored for your time and effort.

Each level – and there’s now 140 of them – comes with different configurations to test yourself against. Sometimes they will move, you’ll have to deal with indestructible panels, and there are power-ups that take out neighbouring blocks, spawn more balls, and do a variety of other things. There’s always something a little bit different to deal with. Thankfully you also have power ups for your bat that, once charged, can draw a ball to it for an easy hit, stick it to the pad and let you fire off with precision, and more.

C-Smash VRS practice

The main Journey mode wraps this up in a rogue-like form. You’ll try to work your way through five Orbits, choosing a path through a set of levels and trying to outlast the timer that is always ticking down. It’s rather brutally difficult, in my opinion, especially for the amount of time you lose whenever the ball gets past you and has to be reset.

Thankfully you can play in Zen mode instead, which gives you as much time as you want and need to reach the end – I certainly needed it, if only for the climactic level!

Then there was the second big update that brought Infinity Mode, invoking the kinds of action in Beat Saber, Pistol Whip and others as blocks now inexorably move down a hall towards you. It’s no longer just enough to bat the ball back down the hall, but you have to actually dodge any blocks that you can’t destroy and try to protect blocks on the wall behind you. It’s a great twist on the main game and adds an even more active layer onto the experience.

C-Smash VRS coop

Infinity Mode can also be played in two player co-op, working together to keep one ball in play, and then there’s a trio of multiplayer modes. These range from trying to smash blocks behind your rival player in standard head-to-head, to fighting for control over a wall that’s between you in Firewall, or racing to be the first person to hit blocks that spawn in Quickshot. Firewall is probably my favourite, even if it can lead to agonisingly long matches as you scrabble to get total control of the wall.

We’re at the stage now where online player counts will have naturally dwindled a few months after release, so even with the ability to play a warm up mode, you will struggle to find a partner on-the-fly. Thankfully there’s now AI bots in the game at three difficulty levels that you can play these mods with. You might be better off considering this as a single-player VR game, though.

C-Smash VRS multiplayer

As minimalist as the game is, there’s also just a ton of fun little touches sprinkled throughout the game. In the main menu, look through the window to your side and there could be astronauts bouncing off pads, as you load into a multiplayer game, you’re greeted by a DJ pumping out some banging tunes, and through pretty much every area and stage, you’ll have windows out into space where there could be onlookers cheering you one, space ships flying by and more.

Summary
With the simplicity of squash and block smashing at its core, C-Smash VRS is a virtual racket sport delight. The bat and ball physics are tricky to master, but stick to the easier Zen mode, or play with a friend in multiplayer and co-op, and there's plenty of joy to be had here.
Good
  • Zen and Infinity modes blend challenge
  • Great minimalist aesthetic and pumping soundtrack
  • Playing co-op and multiplayer modes, if you can bring a friend
Bad
  • Difficult to be truly accurate with your shots
  • Journey mode is just brutally hard
8
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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!